Experience the wine harvest in Bordeaux

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If you consider yourself a lover of wine, you’ll no doubt hold the Bordeaux region in Southwest France in high regard. With regimented rows of grapevines lining the rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see, it’s an oenophile’s paradise. One of the most interesting times of year for wine lovers is undoubtedly the harvest season, but the city of Bordeaux itself has plenty to offer all year round. Bordeaux Where in France: Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 867km / 7h 50m When somewhere gets the seal of approval from Her Majesty, you know it’s special. After her last visit to Bordeaux, the Queen remarked that the city is “the very essence of elegance”, and of course, she wasn’t wrong. The Miroir d'Eau in front of the Place de la Bourse is most spectacular at night. Around half of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest urban area of anywhere in the world. It exudes charm with its majestic 18th century architecture, nowhere epitomises the grandeur of Bordeaux as perfectly as the Place de la Bourse. With regal airs reminiscent of Versailles, the elegant symmetry of the Palais de la Bourse is really brought to life by the Miroir d'Eau in front of the building, particularly at night when the reflection in the shallow water is illuminated. Bordeaux is home to many beautiful churches, but none quite match the splendour of the Cathédrale St-André. The oldest section of the cathedral dates back to 1096, but most of what you see dominating the skyline is from later additions made in the 13th and 14th centuries. The main attraction for visitors is climbing the 231 steps up the 50m-high Gothic tower to be rewarded with panoramic views of the city below. There are also often concerts held in the church where you can go and see live music. Admire the views from the Gothic tower of the Cathédrale St-André. Before you head out of the city to explore the vineyards, pay a visit to the Cité du Vin museum dedicated to wine. The building itself, beautifully situated on the banks of the River Garonne, has been thoughtfully designed to resemble a decanter, clad in silver and gold metal that catches the light just right. Inside you’ll find sensory exhibitions covering everything from grape varieties and cultivation methods, to new trends and famous personalities. The tour ends with a glass of wine or grape juice to whet your appetite before exploring the region further. How to make the most of the Bordeaux harvest season The Bordeaux wine harvest begins in early September and is one of the best times to visit the châteaux of the region. The sun is still beaming its warmth down upon the countryside, and the vineyards are alive with activity. As you can imagine, there are numerous beautiful vineyards in the Bordeaux region to choose from, each with its own unique qualities and reasons to visit. At some, you can join in with the harvest – be warned, though, it’s hard work – whilst others simply offer expert-led tastings. The wine harvest season begins in early September. Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion This is the wine school of the Saint-Émilion region and the perfect place to start your visit, whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast, or new to the game. The oenologists at the Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion will talk you through all the basics, as well as some of the finer points for more advanced tasters. There are a number of short courses for you to choose from on which you’ll learn what to expect and look out for when tasting specific wines, which will steer you in the right direction for the rest of your trip. Head to their website for more information. Château Pape Clément One of the oldest wine estates in the region, you can feel the history of Château Pape Clément emanating from every grape at this stunning vineyard. The first harvest dates all the way back to 1252, which means that fine wines have been produced on the estate for over 750 years, however back then it was known as the Domaine de la Mothe. Your visit to Château Pape Clément will really be brought to life with one of the tours or workshops they offer their guests. From simple wine tastings, ranging from three to eight wines, to more elaborate pairings with cheese, to winemaker workshops where you’ll learn to make your own souvenir bottle, you won’t soon forget your visit to this estate. The iconic Château Lafite Rothschild as seen on the labels of some of the world’s finest wines. Château Lafite Rothschild For one of the most exclusive tours in the region, visit the spectacular Château Lafite Rothschild vineyard. The wines from this estate were the first of only four to be classified in Bordeaux’s coveted Premier Cru, or First Growth, grouping in 1855, the highest ranking bestowed on wine. Places on vineyard tours are limited to just 15 people, so make sure to book early. You will explore the estate in all its grandeur before being invited to taste some of the finest wines in the world in an unparalleled experience. If you fancy buying a souvenir bottle to take home, however, be prepared to pay for quality. If all this talk of wine has whet your appetite and inspired you to drive down to Bordeaux, remember to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares available.

From Calais to Slovenia on a pawsome adventure!

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Where’s the farthest destination you’ve travelled to with your pet? Bloggers behind World Wide Walkies Jackie and Mark and their four Cavapoos have explored as far as Slovenia, all in one caravan and here to inspire your next adventure. When I arrive in Calais, I love the sense of freedom – a whole WORLD within reach. You could drive to Outer Mongolia if you wanted to. Our plan was a little more modest. We Brits love France, yet there is so much on our doorstep. So, with our caravan (that we’ve named Kismet) and Les Quatre Cavapoos, we decided to explore Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia before cruising home via Italy. In fewer than 1000 words, I can’t give the low-down on these wonderful countries. However, I have picked out some highlights for you! Rothenburg ob der Tauber Where in Germany: Franconia, Bavaria Drive from Calais: 767.1km / 7h 39m Fairytale city I was promised; fairytale city I got. Rothenburg is truthfully THE most beautiful place I have ever visited. Who needs Disneyland when real places like this exist? My hubby was right when he said; “We have reached the Kingdom of ‘Far Far Away’!” Rothenburg is one of the most beautiful places we’ve travelled to. There are 42 towers on the medieval walls surrounding the town (42 - the answer to Life, the universe and everything!). We walked the walls with the dogs and were treated to beautiful views of the Tauber valley. It was 27°C at 9am but thankfully, the walls and gardens were gloriously shady. If, like Wizzard, you ‘Wish it could be Christmas Every Day’ then Rothenburg is for you. It boasts the largest Christmas Village in Europe, which is open all year round! We had our photo taken with the larger-than-life wooden toy soldier outside the Christmas Village (above). Of course the dogs went down a storm as usual, Germany is very dog friendly and our four-legged friends were allowed on trains, subways and into most restaurants (with some restaurants and shops even bringing your pets some water). The Saxon Swiss National Park Where in Germany: Saxony Drive from Calais: 990.7km/ 10h 32m On the border with and continuing into the Czech Republic, The Saxon Swiss National Park is definitely a destination to get on your bucket list! In Germany (like France) dogs aren't often allowed off lead in National Parks. In the Saxon Swiss, however, the Tourist Information will tell you routes and areas where dogs can run free. The stunning Bastei Bridges towers 194 metres above the Elbe River. There are 1200km of well-marked walking trails on the German side. The ‘Malerweg’, or ‘Painters’ Way’ is a long-distance walking route through the area where certain parts are dog friendly. A Julia Bradbury Walk takes in many of the must-sees, like magnificent castles at Hohnstein (home of puppetry), Königstein Fortress and Bastei Bridge, which is built into the rock – there’s plenty to see in the area! To connect with nature, there are many curious ‘Lord of the Rings’ landscapes; walk in the ‘Lost World’ of Uttewalder Grund, hike the glorious Polenztal Valley or see whether you think that the fabulous sandstone rock formations towering above the River Elbe compare to those in Monument Valley! Colditz Castle Where in Germany: Saxony Drive from Calais: 880.8 km/ 9h 16m We’ve seen the film, played the board game and now – we have sat in the famous prisoner’s courtyard in Colditz Castle. It was amazing to actually visit such an iconic place where the dogs were allowed in the castle and on the guided tour too. It was a lovely, cool walk through the forest from the campsite to the castle; passing through a dilapidated tier garden. Dogs were allowed both in Colditz Castle and on the guided tours. There are 1000 years of history in the walls of Colditz Castle so there is a lot to discover, but the few years of WW2 dominate. My favourite exhibit was a collection of watercolours and excerpts from the diary of William Faithfull Anderson, a prisoner of war in Colditz from 1940-1945. It was a really personal story. I particularly loved his painting of the prisoners relaxing in the courtyard and his description of “a human sundial” chasing patches of sunlight around! The Most Beautiful River in the World Where in Slovenia: Western Slovenia Drive from Calais: 880.8 km/ 9h 16m There are plenty of off-lead walks near our campsite in Slovenia. The moment we entered Slovenia, my jaw dropped. (It only re-clenched again as we descended the many hairpins of the Predel pass!) At 1156m, all we could see from the top of Predel were the bright, white limestone peaks of the Julian Aps soaring into the air over deep chasms of emerald green, far below. The pyramids were once faced with limestone so that they shone out in the landscape; this was more impressive. I took the dogs for an evening walk from Camp Soča (a dog-friendly campsite we stayed in). As I turned the corner from an unassuming little path, I thought I had been transported to paradise. The river Soča wages the hefty claim of being ‘The Most Beautiful River in the World.’ As the track opened out and I was greeted by the deep turquoise waters of the river bordered by golden shallows, edged with pale beaches and pure white stones where the river emerged from a steep gorge with walls like polished alabaster, I was not inclined to disagree! I hope that this has given you some inspiration to explore a little further from home. The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) and the Castle Road (Burgenstraße) both take in Rothenburg. ‘SLOVEnia’ is the tag line for the Slovenian Tourist Board. If mountains, lakes, caves and castles float your boat, you will truly LOVE it! There’s a world out there for your pet to explore! Feeling inspired? Start your next pawsome adventure with your pet by booking your tickets with us early and taking advantage of the best prices.

Summer in the Alps with your four-legged friend

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Grab life over 50 blogger Emma Hetherington shares her French Alps itinerary, bringing along her Jack Russell Jacob too for a pawsome holiday. With our grown-up kids all working this summer, we decided instead to take our dog Jacob along on our latest holiday to the French Alps. We chose Le Shuttle to get to France as it meant we could stay in the car with the dog during the journey. And what a joy! With a bit of preparation before we set off, and given the French are very dog-friendly, we discovered a great four-legged holiday companion. We were concerned it might be a long drive for our miniature Jack Russell Jacob (680 miles to be exact) from Twickenham to the French Alps. But with a bit of planning for dog-friendly stop-overs along the way it was actually really enjoyable and stress-free for me, my husband John and Jacob too. And the rewards of the stunning scenery when we got to mountains - and the sunny, Alpine outdoors for Jacob to run around in - more than made up for the long journey. Outbound Stopover – Arras Where in France: Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France Drive from Calais: 108.9km / 1h 15m Arras makes a brilliant first stop, which is not far from Calais. No more than a couple of hours from Calais, we stopped overnight in a dog-friendly Ibis hotel right in the centre of this beautiful market town. With its two huge squares, surrounded by narrow, tall, medieval-style houses, there were plenty of streets to explore and outdoor cafes and restaurants to take in the lively summer evening nightlife. Although the original wooden houses in Arras were destroyed during the course of two World Wars, the town has kept to the spirit of the originals in the rebuilding. At the Ibis it did feel strange the first time we walked Jacob through reception, into the lift and up to our hotel room. But this is France. And they love dogs. French Alps destination - Thollen-les-Memises Where in France: Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 881.4km / 8h 35m There’s no bigger ‘walkies’ destination than the French Alps! This pretty, rustic village ribbons its way up a quiet road above Evian Les Bains in the Haute Savoie. Offering stunning views across Lake Geneva and lots of invigorating walks in the mountains, it was a perfect spot to meet up with the whole family for a week. Staying in a Swiss-style chalet, nestled underneath the towering cliffs of the mountain above, Jacob loved it. He happily travelled in the cable car from the village into the peaks above, exploring Alpine meadows filled with the sound of tinkling cow bells and lots of interesting and very different smells from back home in Twickenham. Doggy days out Evian Les Bains Just down the winding mountain road from Thollon-les-Memises is the famed spa town of Evian. This is a lovely place for a day out with a dog. There are plenty of opportunities to amble around the pretty streets, explore its Art Nouveau spa building, lake-side hotels, cafes and casino. We took the rickety funicular railway up the hill for more views over Lake Geneva to Lausanne. As you’d expect in France, most of the local cafes were very happy to accommodate a dog whenever we stopped for a coffee or a glass of wine. Ancient Yvoire A tiny, walled town on the French shores of Lake Geneva, it is worth a visit if you’re in the area – just be prepared to share the place with a lot of other visitors during the summer! John, myself and Jacob in Ancient Yvoire. Geneva Big cities generally aren’t great when you have a dog in tow. But there is plenty of lovely outdoor scenery to admire in Geneva and of course the lake shore itself to walk around. It took us about an hour to drive across the border to Geneva from Thollen. Jacob enjoyed the views of the Jet D’Eau (the giant fountain in the lake itself) and was very happy to ride-along on the tourist train that took us up into the ancient heart of the city, accompanied by an interesting commentary about the history of the place. Return Stopover – Troyes Where in France: Aube, Grand Est Drive from Calais: 396.4km / 3h 49m On the return journey at the end of our holiday we chose another historic town about three hours drive north from Evian Les Bains to stop over. The Ibis here was bigger and more modern than the one we stayed in Arras – but gave the same warm welcome to the dog. Unlike Arras, Troyes has kept its original medieval buildings. It’s very charming with its wonky, wooden-framed houses, old churches and of course plenty of cafes to watch the world go by. Historic Troyes is also a very dog-friendly destination. It turned out that Jacob is a born traveller. What impressed us most was how he handled lots of different types of transport. It didn’t occur to me to think about this before we set off – but as a nervous dog he doesn’t usually take well to unfamiliar and noisy surroundings. Yet on every mode of transport he tried, from a clunky funicular and hooting steamboat to swaying telecabine and crowded tourist train, he didn’t make a murmur. Could it be that he so appreciated being included on this trip to France that he decided to behave? We’re looking forward to taking him with us again. He’s a great travel companion. If Jacob’s pawsome travels has left you (and your furry friend!) feeling inspired, Remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best prices.

Hike in the hills of Le Hohwald

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Hiking doesn’t have to be a strenuous expedition about conquering great peaks, and surviving on nothing but Kendal mint cake for three days. It can be just as enjoyable going for a more leisurely stroll that only takes a couple of hours, leaving plenty of time for a well-deserved, long lunch. Not too far from the border with Germany is the bucolic village of Le Hohwald, nestled in the French hills like something out of a fairy tale. It’s a relatively easy scenic drive from Calais, and will make the perfect basecamp for the whole family to hit the trails and explore the great outdoors without the need for an oxygen tank! Le Hohwald Where in France: Bas-Rhin, Alsace Drive from Calais: 578km / 6h 15m The main attraction of Le Hohwald is its location amid the trees at the base of the Vosges mountains. There are numerous walking and cycling trails leading into the forests and up and down hills starting from Le Hohwald. But before you leave the town, it’s definitely worth having a quick look around first. The village of Le Hohwald may be small, but it’s perfectly formed The architecture of the houses is gorgeous. They look like something that you’d see on a box of chocolates or fudge, with their pretty painted shutters, timber details, and pleasing symmetry. The Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité church is particularly charming and worth a visit for its peaceful atmosphere and lovely frescoes. It won’t take very long to explore, as Le Hohwald really is very small, but it’s the perfect place to stretch your legs after a long drive. Once you’re feeling refreshed, head back to your accommodation, put your boots on, grab your map and bag of supplies, as it’s time to set off on an adventure. The Col du Kreuzweg hike Just because a hike is easy, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s short or boring. The Col du Kreuzweg hike is proof of that. This route starts and ends in the same place, making it great as a morning or afternoon loop. It’s about 5.5 miles long, or just less than 9 kilometres, so you’ll definitely feel like you’ve achieved something, without completely wearing yourself out, making it ideal for younger children as well. In total, it should take you around 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete, or a little longer if you like to stop for snacks or rests. Hiking is the best way to make the most of Le Hohwald’s stunning location Depending on which direction you go, you will either face a long, slow ascent with a shorter, steeper incline on the way back, or a shorter but more challenging hike up hill to begin with, and a more leisurely walk back downhill. For the sake of your thighs the next day, we’d recommend starting off gently, and taking advantage of gravity’s helping hand with the steeper homeward stretch! The Champ du Feu hike If you’re after an easy route that will take you and the family the whole day to complete, then hiking from Le Hohwald to the Champ du Feu is the trail for you. Again, this route is a loop, which saves having to drive or organise public transport for getting home again. Coming in at around 10.3 miles, or 16.6 kilometres, you will definitely need to make sure that you are well stocked with supplies before setting out. As well as lunch, make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks to keep you going, as you’ll be hiking for at least 6 hours to complete this route. At the summit of the Champ du Feu route, look out for the interesting sculptures Whichever direction you decide to walk this trail, your journey will be pretty similar. As far as trails go, this one is quite symmetrical with its ascents and descents. If you set off anti-clockwise, you’ll reach the highest point slightly quicker, at 4.6 miles or 7.4 kilometres in. Attractions to look out for en route In the local area, there are a couple of great attractions to look out for. Plus, it’s always nice to have a goal or a marker to aim for at different points along your hike to break the walk up a little. About 2 miles outside of Le Hohwald, hidden amongst the trees, you’ll find the beautiful Cascade du Hohwald. There is a viewing area with a picnic bench where you can sit and admire the waterfall whilst having a spot of lunch or just a rest. It’s definitely worth pausing here for a short while, though, to appreciate the natural beauty of the place. The beautiful waterfall just outside of Le Hohwald In the middle of the Champ du Feu region, and actually in the middle of a roundabout, is the iconic observation tower, which has become the local emblem. The tower stands at 1,099 metres above sea level, and is the highest point of the area, making the views from the top really spectacular. You will also notice signs in the local area for the Parc Alsace Aventure, which is the local adventure park. If you fancy visiting on another day, it’s a short 8-minute drive from the centre of Le Hohwald. There are loads of fun activities here for the whole family, including an assault course through the trees, zip lines, paintball and archery. All of the activities have different admission rates and opening times, so check the website before you go. If you’re feeling inspired to get back to nature and make the most of the great outdoors, an adventure holiday in Le Hohwald will tick all the boxes. Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

Driving Dad’s Guide to the Champagne Region

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Matt Hyotte, otherwise known as Driving Dad, moved to the UK over a decade ago and has been enjoying European road trips since. Together with his wife and 3 boys, their on the road adventures have attracted over 11,000 followers on Instagram. Are you looking to conquer Europe by car? Here’s Driving Dad’s tips for enjoying one of the most popular areas in France; the Champagne region… Less than a three hour drive from Calais lies the Champagne region of France, an area whose world-famous beverage of the same name is produced. But for many travellers driving further into the Continent, the most they will see of Champagne are the signs along the A26 motorway for the junctions to Reims and Epernay, cities synonymous with champagne production, and quick glimpses of Champagne’s sprawling vineyards. Much has been written about champagne…and Champagne, and the region offers endless activities for champagne lovers and connoisseurs. If your interests lie in top end champagne then there are 17 villages with the “grand cru” designation (the highest designation in Champagne) and 43 “premier cru” villages (the second highest designation). This translates to hundreds of top tier champagne producers without even taking into account the thousands of smaller producers populating the region. In short, if you can’t make Champagne a destination, it is certainly worth a quick detour. The Perching Bar Champagne tastings have acquired the reputation of very formal events, and fairly so. Champagne producers and drinkers alike take their champagne seriously. But for those looking to combine a nice glass of bubbly with an element of adventure, there exists the perfect champagne bar. A treehouse toast | Credit: Driving Dad The Perching Bar is located in the Foret de Brise Charrettes, fittingly just outside the grand cru-designated town of Verzy and conveniently located only 15 minutes off the A26/A4 motorway. What makes this champagne bar particularly distinctive is not the type or quality of champagne it serves, but that it is in a tree house, 20 feet above the forest floor. True, it is a treehouse fit for some of the region’s top (as well as most interesting) champagnes, but it is a treehouse nonetheless and one of the most engaging, if not most enjoyable, places to drink a glass of champagne (or two). Getting to the Perching Bar is an adventure in itself. After exiting the motorway and driving through the winding streets of Verzy, you veer off onto a gravel road that runs along the top of a local vineyard. This gravel road soon turns into a one-lane dirt road that winds through the forest and dead ends in a clearing, where, if not for the wooden barrel with an arrow pointing up a pine needle covered hiking trail, you might think you were lost. An inside view of the Perching Bar | Credit: Driving Dad A five minute hike later (while not strenuous, leave your high heels and loafers at home) and welcome signs of civilization, in the form of a small wooden ticket booth and the distance sound of clinking glasses, emerge. Champagne Road Trip Access to the Perching Bar costs €16 per person, which includes a glass of champagne and an introduction by one of the resident champagne experts to the champagne on offer that day. After purchasing tickets, a series of suspension bridges and wooden platforms built into the forest lead to the treehouse bar itself. It takes some navigating as only one person is allowed on the suspension bridges at a time, but upon arrival, you are immediately rewarded with sweeping views of the local vineyards and the village of Verzy. In nice weather, the wrap-around deck provides an excellent vantage point to take in these views. Or opt for the indoor seating consisting of chairs swings complemented by a hanging ice bucket for quick access to your bottle of champagne. Either way, it is guaranteed to be one of the most unique champagne drinking experiences you’ve had, in Champagne or elsewhere. Enjoy the vineyards from above | Credit: Driving Dad The Perching Bar is open from April to late November and select dates outside these months. Opening times vary depending on the season and reservations in the peak summer months are highly recommended. Group tastings and food can be pre-arranged. Children under 12 are not allowed in the bar. For designated drivers, remember France allows 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood, instead of 0.8 as in the UK. For the kids An added benefit to the Perching Bar is that it is adjacent to the Parc Arboxygène, an outdoor adventure park also located in the Foret de Brise Charette, with ropes courses, zip lines and suspension bridges. Trained instructors will take your kids through the park while you happily sip your champagne at the Perching Bar. (Or reward yourself with a bottle of champagne after you complete one of the rope courses). Are you ready to enjoy a glass of champagne in the trees? Start your next Driving Dad inspired road trip and book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best prices.

Enjoy a break from the city in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine

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City life is great. There’s always something to see or do, and it’s a melting pot of different cultures from around the world. But every now and then, all you want to do is escape and run to the hills! If that sounds like your idea of heaven, then set your sat nav for Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. Bellegarde-sur-Valserine Where in France: Ain, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 778km / 6h 45m The town of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is a relatively new one, formed by imperial decree from Napoleon III on December 6, 1858. Sat at the confluence of the Rhône and Valserine rivers, and in close proximity to the Swiss border, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine opened up to major industrial developments once a railway station had been constructed in the middle of the 19th century. Numerous companies set up along the banks of the two rivers to take advantage of their hydropower, such as paper mills, spinning mills, and sawmills. Then, in 1883, Louis Dumont built a dam on the Valserine river, which generated enough energy to make Bellegarde-sur-Valserine one of the first towns in France with public electric lighting. The river flowing through Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is just beautiful. Today, the town’s main attraction, as well as its proximity to Switzerland, is that it is an ideal base for exploring the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Jura, or the Upper Jura Regional Natural Park. The perfect setting for getting back to nature and leaving the stresses of city life behind. Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Jura No matter what time of year you visit, there’s something to keep everyone happy. In the winter, the Haut-Jura attracts snowboarders and skiers, particularly cross-country skiers, and during the summer months, walkers from all over the world come to ramble through the meadows and up the scenic hills. The area is also perfect if you fancy trying out water sports such as white-water rafting or kayaking, or even a more leisurely afternoon spent fishing. The Haut-Jura region is resplendent with rolling hills and glittering lakes. There is seemingly no end to the ways in which you can explore the 1780-sq-km Haut-Jura Regional Park. There are thousands of km worth of walking routes, which can also, along some routes, be explored on mountain bikes or horseback. If you don’t have your own bike (or horse for that matter!), you’ll find plenty of places you can rent one, and local stables who organise group horseback riding tours. You can find out more at one of the local tourist information offices. If after all that fresh air and exercise you’re in need of a hearty snack to keep you going, the Haut-Jura is also home to a thriving cheese-making industry. The region’s three most famous cheeses are Comté, Morbier and Bleu de Gex, and after a day of trekking up and down hills, you’ll have earned a plate of all three – with a side of fresh local bread and a glass of wine to wash it down, of course! Dairy farmers have been grazing their herds and making cheese in these hills for centuries. Camping around Bellegarde-sur-Valserine If you’re planning a visit in the warmer months, there’s no better way to experience this stunning little corner of France than by camping. There are a number of great campsites in the area, so you’re spoilt for choice really, but we’ve put together this brief guide to point you in the right direction. Camping du Signal 35 pitches, on 1 hectare Located between lakes and mountains, this little campsite has everything you need such as water, electricity and internet access. The pitches at Camping du Signal are a decent size, and separated by hedges for a little extra privacy. As well as the 35 pitches available for setting up your own tent or caravan, there are also 11 set up for you, which include little cottages and mobile homes. Dogs are permitted on site, but not inside the provided accommodation. There are communal showers on site, as well as special areas for your baby and disabled access. Kids will be kept entertained with tennis courts, a slackline, indoor play area, Pétanque and other outdoor games. Camping Les 12 Cols 101 pitches, on 2 hectares Nestled 800m above sea level on a plateau of meadows and forests, is the Camping Les 12 Cols site. There are some lovely new facilities available, including a large common room with a fireplace – particularly welcome in the winter months – as well as a library, bar, and computer area. Outside, you’ll find a swimming pool, playground, table tennis, and volleyball to keep the whole family happy. The terraced campsite has 101 pitches, ranging from 90m2 to 130m2, all equipped with wifi, water and electricity, and separated with hedges and shrubbery. You can also rent accommodation on site, but as is generally the case, dogs are not permitted to stay inside. Camping Les Gorges de l’Oignin 123 pitches, on 2.8 hectares In terms of location, you couldn’t really ask for a more beautiful spot than Camping Les Gorges de l’Oignin. Built on terraces at the edge of the Lac de l'Oignin, this is one of the most scenic and peaceful campsites in the area. There are 123 pitches, separated by hedges under dappled shade, with a beautiful view of the lake below. There are also some lovely chalets and mobile homes on site to rent, if you don’t have a tent or caravan. There are the usual amenities such as water and electricity, as well as wifi around the bar and terrace. You can also have fresh bread and pastries delivered, if you order them the day before, and there’s a shop where you can restock on all your basics. In the summer, there’s a lovely little water park, as well as volleyball, football, boules, golf, and fishing. There’s also a kids’ club for 6-12-year-olds, where they can learn crafts and make new friends. So, if city life is getting a bit much for you, jump in the car and head for the idyllic escape of Bellgarde-sur-Valserine and the Haut-Jura. Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

Hiking the Cap d’Antibes trail

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The Côte d'Azur is so named for good reason. The crystal-clear waters of the Cap d’Antibes are the definition of sparkling azure blue. To really make the most of this stretch of coastline, head out of the main town, hit the dusty trail and hike out to the best viewpoints. Antibes Where in France: Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Drive from Calais: 1,211 km / 11h 50m People flock from all over the world to bask in the sun-drenched splendour of the French Riviera, and stroll along the beach admiring the beautiful yachts and the beautiful people on board. The town’s beauty has also attracted some famous admirers over the years, including the author Graham Greene, and the artists Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. Picasso, in fact, featured the town in many of his works, and even has a museum dedicated to him there now. It goes without saying that the curation of the Musée Picasso focuses heavily on the artist’s work of Antibes, but after recent renovations it has been re-contextualised and positioned in a broader perspective of Picasso’s life. Lose yourself down the pretty streets in the town of Antibes. For a taste of ‘real’ Antibes, head into the old town, and get lost amid the maze of cobbled streets. Try to navigate your way to the Marché Provençal, a beautiful old local market housed beneath a 19th century roof. Head out early, as it’s only open until 1pm, but whilst you’re there you can pick up all manner of delicious morsels to rustle up some lunch. Admire the view from the old sea walls while you eat, and build up an appetite for a good, long walk along the rugged coastline below. Hiking around the Cap d’Antibes Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or a bit of a hiking rookie, the Cap d’Antibes trail is accessible to everyone. The route is about 4.8km in length, and will take you around two hours to complete, with an ascent and descent of 30m. All in all, nothing too strenuous, but so worth it for the views. You’ll start and finish at La Garoupe beach, where you can park your car just behind the beach itself. From here, head to the end of the beach and start to follow the footpath round towards the wild headland, in the opposite direction to the town of Antibes. Keep following the wide path, and you’ll come to a stunning cove with views of the Côte d'Azur that will take your breath away. There are numerous postcard-perfect bays all around the Cap d’Antibes. Keeping along the path, which will change shortly after this first cove into a paved path, and next you’ll come to the Cap Gros. All along the coast, you’ll find pretty bays and inlets of the clearest, bluest water you’ve ever seen. And on your other side, some of the biggest, most beautiful houses and villas in the area. Continue around the headland, past a couple more bays where you can stop off for a refreshing dip – or at least a paddle – until you come to the Baie des Milliardaires d'Antibes, or the Bay of Antibes Billionaires. From here, take the path inland, which will lead you back to La Garoupe beach where you started. Take a dip in the crystal clear waters of this little slice of paradise. It goes without saying, but take care when walking along this coastal path. It’s mostly safe, and without hazard, but after rain or particularly rough seas, the path can get wet and slippery. There are handrails along the majority of the route, but take your time nonetheless, which will also give you more time to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. If you’ve got itchy feet, and can’t wait to set off on your next walking adventure, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more scenic route than the Cap d’Antibes trail. Just remember to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares across the Channel.

The medieval magic of Carcassonne

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The silhouette of Carcassonne looms big against the sky as you approach. Its imposing fortified walls leave no room for guesswork as to how it’s still standing after all these years. Granted, a lot of restoration was carried out by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc from 1853 to 1879, but this town was built to last. Carcassonne Where in France: Occitanie Drive from Calais: 1053km / 10h 20m Carcassonne sits on top of a hill next to the Aude river in the middle of an historic trade route linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. The area of Carcassonne has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, but it was really the Romans who recognised its strategic importance. It was later taken over in the 5th century by the Visigoths, who formed the city itself. It then passed from hand to hand, as various successors and conquerors took control, until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The medieval fortress underwent extensive and faithful restoration in the 19th century, and in 1997 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. An aerial view of Carcassonne and its strategic hilltop position. Carcassonne is the second most visited place in France after Paris, which makes it an absolute must-see. Fortunately, much of the citadel can be visited for free and without the need for a tour guide. You can visit both day and night through either the Narbonne or the Aude gateway, the latter of which offers particularly spectacular views across the open plains. Château et Remparts The town is surrounded by two walls topped with defensive battlements, with a total of 52 towers keeping watch. If you want to walk on the ramparts themselves, you have to pay to enter the Château et Remparts. Ticket prices vary for adults, students and groups, so check ahead of visiting. Similarly, opening hours vary throughout the year. To make the most of the Château, give yourself at least an hour to explore the exhibition rooms covering over 2,500 years of history, the keep, and the internal and external defensive walls. The ramparts are divided into two sections, the northern Gallo-Roman rampart and the western medieval rampart. Both offer spectacular panoramas of the surrounding landscape, across the Montagne Noire and the Pyrenees. La Porte de Aude, or the Aude gateway is simply stunning. Musée de l'Inquisition This one may not be for everyone, but for those with a morbid sense of curiosity or an interest in medieval history, it’ll be right up your street. The Museum of the Inquisition is dedicated to the instruments of torture used in France from the 12th century up until the French Revolution. A tour of the museum will take you through dungeons and chambers filled with all sorts of nasty things, explained in fascinating detail in French, English, Spanish, Italian and German. The way that the museum has been curated isn’t just for the sake of telling a gory tale, but rather to denounce the intolerance and fanaticism that reigned at the time. If nothing else, it’ll make you glad to be alive in this day and age rather than back then! Ticket prices vary for adults, students and children, but the museum is open all year, seven days a week, between 10am and 6pm, extended to 8pm in July and August. Basilique Saint-Nazaire Often referred to as the ‘Jewel of the City’, the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire is truly stunning. From the outside, you can admire the striking Gothic-Romanesque architecture, but the beauty of the church is really best appreciated from the inside. It is thought that this site originally had a church on it as far back as the 6th century, but the current basilica can be dated to the late 11th century after Pope Urban II blessed building materials before construction in 1096. Gothic alterations were made in the 13th century, as well as general renovations in the 19th century, so it really is a church of the ages. The Basilica of Saint Nazaire is even more stunning from the inside than it is from the outside. Inside, particularly on a sunny day, the stained-glass windows will take your breath away. The central window in the choir dates back to 1280, one of the oldest in France, and depicts the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Place Carnot In all honesty, what you end up doing in Carcassonne doesn’t really matter. The magic of the place permeates everything, so even if you just spend the day strolling around hopping from café to café, browsing the shops en route, you can’t go wrong. If a relaxed day of wandering the streets of this ancient town sounds like your idea of heaven, make sure you head to Place Carnot. This is where all the local Carcassonnais gather and meet up with each other. The Neptune fountain in the centre of Place Carnot. In the centre of the square is a beautiful fountain with a marble statue of Neptune stood pride of place. And on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings, there’s a lovely little market selling fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Feeling inspired to discover the medieval citadel of Carcassonne? Be sure to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

Journey into Padirac Cave

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No one is quite sure when the chasm of Padirac Cave, or Gouffre de Padirac, was formed, but the ‘how’ of the matter is that the ceiling of the cavern below collapsed, revealing this large hole in the earth. It is known that the cavern existed in the 3rd century, but other than that, it’s a bit of a mystery, which has led to some colourful mythology surrounding its existence. Local legend has it that the chasm was formed by the devil himself, who kicked his heel into the ground and challenged Saint Martin to cross it. He said that if Saint Martin succeeded, then he would spare the souls of the peasants he was about to drag to hell. With that, Saint Martin spurred on his faithful mule, and leapt clean over the great hole in the earth. It is said that you can still see traces of the hoof marks today! Standing at the bottom gazing toward the sky makes you really appreciate the cave’s vastness. Padirac Cave Where in France: Lot département, Occitanie Drive from Calais: 814km / 7h 55m With a diameter of approximately 35 metres, or 115 feet, standing at the edge of the entrance to Padirac Cave will take your breath away. To visit the cavern below, you will have to descend 75 metres by lift or stairs, before entering the cave system, which goes on to a depth of 103 metres, or 338 feet. Take a boat through the labyrinthine chambers of the cave. Once you reach the bottom, you will be guided to the boats which will carry you into the heart of the cave. You will glide over the peaceful rivers, weaving in and out of cavities in the rocks, which themselves take on surprising shapes reminiscent of certain types of mushrooms, casting eerie but beautiful silhouettes and shadows. As your journey continues along the river, you’ll come to the rippling waters of Lac de la Pluie, the lake of rain, where you will quite literally find yourself being rained on. Water permanently runs down the walls and stalactites here, including the Grande Pendeloque, a massive 60-metre-high stalactite. The sheer scale of the stalactites in Padirac Cave is breath taking. You’ll then disembark the boat at the edge of the main cavern, before following the walking tour into the ‘Salle du Grand Dome’, a vast cathedral-like space that will have you gazing around yourself in wonder. At its height, the ceiling reaches 94 metres and is bejewelled with crystalline clusters formed over millions of years. Once you’ve walked through the rest of the cave, you’ll find yourself blinking against the brightness of the natural daylight, left with a sense of awe at the natural beauty you have just witnessed. Practical information The tour of Padirac Cave will take about an hour and a half, and so the ticket office closes 90 minutes before the end of the day. The cave is open every day from late March until early November, generally from 09:30 until 18:00, but check the exact dates and times ahead of visiting. A visit to Padirac Cave will stay with you and the whole family for years to come. Ticket prices for adults are €13.50, children aged 4 to 12 are €9.50, and kids younger than 4 are free. You can buy tickets online in advance, which is advisable in the busier summer season, or pick them up on the day at the ticket office. There are also audio guides available in English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish, as well as audio guides specifically designed for children. There are also a number of special ticketed events available throughout the season, including afterhours tours and music concerts. One particular highlight is the ‘Explorer Tour’, which will take you through at night, guided through the dark by the light of your own lantern, just how Édouard-Alfred Martel would have discovered it in 1889. One last tip, the caves remain at a constant temperature of 13 Celsius throughout the year, so remember to take a warm jumper or jacket with you! If you’re feeling inspired to venture underground and explore the wonders of Padirac Cave, remember to book your tickets with us in advance in order to take advantage of the best fares.

Your Guide to the Dordogne

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Amongst the rolling hills of the French landscape, down in the southwest corner, lies the eminently charming department of Dordogne. For the British, this region has long held a special place in our hearts and captured our imaginations, and it’s not very hard to see why. A little history Dordogne is one of the oldest departments in France, being one of the original 83 created on 4 March 1790 during the French Revolution. The boundaries of the department roughly mirror those of the ancient county of Périgord, which dates back to the days of the Gauls. The name Périgord comes from the Gaulish word for ‘four tribes’, which is how the area was originally split, and Dordogne is still actually divided, in some respects, into four Périgords reflecting this. There’s the Périgord Vert (Green), Blanc (White, Pourpre (Purple), and Noir (Black). Each is named after a distinguishing feature unique to each region respectively. Périgord Vert is rich with verdant valleys, rivers, and streams. The Périgord Blanc region is white limestone plateaux. Périgord Pourpre is famous for its wine. And Périgord Noir is so named for its woods of oak and pine. Périgord Vert Main town: Nontron Drive from Calais: 756km / 7h 35m As you’d expect from a region named for its beautiful rolling hills, and lush greenery, pretty much anywhere you go you’ll find yourself surrounded by picturesque scenery. There is no shortage of pretty little towns to visit either. One particular highlight is Brantôme, just 20 minutes’ drive down the road from the main town of Nontron. The happily situated Abbey of Brantôme. Nestled in a wide bend alongside the river Dronne, which is spanned by five elegant briges, Brantôme has earned itself the nickname of ‘the Venice of Périgord’. Hours can be whiled away strolling along the winding streets of the town, or admiring the stunning architecture of the Benedictine Abbey of Brantôme, founded in 769 by Charlemagne no less! The bell tower of the 11th century abbey is notable for being one of the oldest gabled Romanesque bell towers in all of France. There are also caverns below the natural rock foundations that you can visit. Périgord Blanc Main town: Périgueux Drive from Calais: 780km / 8h Although it may be less visited than the other Périgord regions, Périgord Blanc still has some real gems to be explored. Périgueux, the capital of Dordogne as well as Périgord Blanc, has been in existence since Neolithic times. As you’d expect, the town is rich with history, with sites dating back to Gallo-Roman times, as well as architecture surviving from medieval and renaissance times. The iconic domes of the Périgueux cathedral. The most famous landmark in the town is undoubtedly the Cathédrale Saint-Front de Périgueux. Modelled on St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, the towers and domes of the church are iconic, the latter of which were actually resized for symmetry by Paul Abadie in the 19th century. Only the bell tower and the crypts remain unchanged since the 12th century. Elsewhere in town, you can visit the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, which has been turned into a park, and the Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum protecting an archaeological site of a Gallo-Roman house, the Vésone Domus, where you can see remarkably well preserved mosaics and wall decorations. Périgord Pourpre Main town: Bergerac Drive from Calais: 882km / 8h 30m You can’t visit the Périgord Pourpre without sampling some of the famous local wines, and Bergerac makes a great base for exploring the region. You’ll find vineyards all along the river, with the right bank being characterised by terraces with the vines grow on sandy, stony and alluvial soils, and on the left bank many of the vineyards are planted on limestone soils on the sides of hills. The two most renowned wines of the region are Pecharmant red wines with their unique flavour and elegant aroma, and Monbazillac white wines, characterised by their sweetness made from handpicked grapes only affected by ‘noble rot’. Château Monbazillac in the Périgord Pourpre wine region. If you’re not so into your wines, the Périgord Pourpre region also follows the lower part of the Dordogne River, where it becomes wider and slower, making it ideal for water pursuits such as canoeing or boat trips. There are plenty of places in the region around Bergerac that you can hire a canoe or kayak, and it’s probably one of the most unforgettable ways to explore the rivers and the idyllic towns and villages. Périgord Noir Main town: Sarlat-la-Canéda Drive from Calais: 820km / 8h 10m Last but by no means least, we have the Périgord Noir region, which is actually the most visited region of the Dordogne. All along the river flowing through the Périgord Noir you’ll find beautiful towns, and captivating castles. This part of the country is as close to stepping into a French fairy tale as you can get. Perched atop a cliff, towering 150m above the river, is Château de Beynac with 900 years of history. Across the river in the distance you can see the medieval fortress of Château de Castelnaud. The beautiful Château des Milandes, home to Josephine Baker. By far one of the prettiest castles in the area is Château des Milandes. And what is particularly unusual about this castle is that its most prominent time was actually during the 20th century thanks to Josephine Baker, famous music hall talent and agent of the French Resistance. She began renting the château in 1940, later buying it in 1947, and it was here that she housed people in support of the Free French effort led by Charles de Gaulle. There is so much to see and do in the Dordogne that you’d need a lifetime to explore everything. Well, there’s no time like the present! If this guide has inspired you to set off on your next adventure, make sure you book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

Things to do in Eindhoven

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Often overshadowed by the likes of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Eindhoven is one of the Netherlands’ unsung heroes. Few people realise what a hidden gem the city is. As a focal point for art, design and technology enthusiasts, driving to Eindhoven offers plenty to inspire its visitors with the city’s ingenuity and inventiveness. Eindhoven Where in Europe: The Netherlands Drive from Calais: 291km / 3h For over a century, Eindhoven has been a hub of technological developments, and every year, thousands of design enthusiasts the world over descend upon its streets. Amazingly, as the fifth largest city in the Netherlands, it wasn’t actually until the industrial revolution that it even became a city. Since then, however, Eindhoven has flourished into a nerve centre for European innovation and technology, fostering the young talents at the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Design Academy Eindhoven. Take a stroll around the quaint city centre As you might expect from its reputation as the design capital of the Netherlands, Eindhoven attracts many people interested in admiring its architectural verve, visiting its design hotspots and attending its many technological events. It’s easy to see why many are charmed by Eindhoven’s entrepreneurial tenacity, and it’s hard not to feel inspired by the creativity the city often celebrates. Van Abbemuseum The Van Abbemuseum boasts an impressive collection of modern art, including masterpieces from the likes of Picasso, Kandinsky, and Chagall, as well as more recent works by contemporary artists. The museum was originally established in 1936 by local magnate Henri van Abbe, after whom it is named. He was an avid lover of modern art, and wanted somewhere to enjoy his passion close to his place of business in Eindhoven, and he went on to donate a great many of the works on display. Spend an afternoon amongst the masters at the Van Abbemuseum The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am until 5pm all year round, except for New Year’s Day (1 January), King’s Day (27 April) and Christmas Day (25 December). Philips Museum The Philips Museum explores the fascinating entrepreneurial history of the Philips family business, which saw what started off as a humble lightbulb factory grow into the giant electrical appliances brand we know today. It is actually thanks to the Philips factory opening in 1891 that Eindhoven became as big and important as it was after the industrial revolution. Whilst touring the museum, you can discover all sorts of fun inventions created by Philips over the years, and there’s even a fun game for the kids to play, themed around innovation, discovery and invention. The Philips Museum is housed in the former Philips Lightbulb Factory The Philips Museum is also open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am until 5pm. The museum is closed on New Year’s Day (1 January), Carnival, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, King’s Day (27 April), Whit Sunday and Whit Monday and on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25 and 26 December). Dutch Design Week Eindhoven If you’re in any way interested in design, it’s worth pencilling in a reminder in your diary to check out Dutch Design Week Eindhoven. It takes place every October in the city, and draws design aficionados from all over the world to what is actually Northern Europe’s biggest design event. What makes Dutch Design Week Eindhoven particularly special is that its focus is on the designs of the future with an emphasis on experimentation and innovation. During Dutch Design Week, there’s inspiration everywhere in Eindhoven There are hundreds of locations across the city, with something to appeal to everyone including exhibitions, lectures, networking events, and debates. Each year, there is a slightly different theme to the week, but the designs on show are always about solving problems for the present and future. Tickets to the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bicycle Path If you’ve brought your bikes along, or even if you’ve hired some whilst you’re there, you simply have to go for a cycle along the 1km trail between Eindhoven and Nuenen. During the day, it’s part of the lovely Van Gogh cycle route, linking various places of interest and heritage connected with the famous Dutch painter, but at night it becomes something really special. Take a late night bike ride down the world’s first glow in the dark cycle route Opened in 2015 for the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death, this is the world’s first glow in the dark cycle route. It was designed by contemporary Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde and created with thousands of blue and green LEDs that resemble Van Gogh’s famous ‘Starry Night’. Eindhoven and its many inspiring things to do are just a short drive away. If you’re planning a visit, don’t forget to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares.

Exploring the ‘Green Venice’ of France

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We don’t know about you, but as the weather warms up, all we want to do is head outdoors and get lost in nature. There’s nothing quite like driving out to the country and getting away from it all. And there’s nowhere quite like the Marais Poitevin en Vendée to do just that. Where in France? The Marais Poitevin is an extensive area of marshland, actually covering three ‘departments’ in western France in the Pays de la Loire and Nouvelle-Aquitaine regions, the Vendée, Deux-Sèvres, and Charente-Maritime. From above, you can really appreciate the intricacy of the canal network How far from Calais? As with any drive, there are a couple of different routes you can take, depending on whether or not there’s anything else you’d like to see en route. The fastest route to the Marais Poitevin is 692km via Rouen, Le Mans and Angers, and will take about six and a half hours. Alternatively, you can drive via Paris, Orléans, Tours and Poitiers, which is a slightly longer route at 705km and will take closer to seven hours. A very brief history During medieval times, local Benedictine monks began draining the area that was once the Gulf of Poitou to form the ‘marais’ or marshland. The land was reconfigured, creating canals and dykes, with the expert help of the Dutch, to keep the sea at bay. To this day, there is still a thriving farming community in the area, cultivated by the monks hundreds of years ago. Stroll around the peaceful remains of the Abbaye de Maillezais There are still sites around the marshes where you can see the remains of where the monks lived and worked. There’s the beautiful, ruined Abbaye de Maillezais, the most striking feature of which is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Maillezais, which would have been at the heart of the abbey. The site was first built on in the 10th century, with the cathedral itself not reaching completion until the 15th century. A little over two hundred years later, the site was abandoned at the end of the 17th century, and since feel into disrepair, and eventually ruin. Getting back to nature The Marais Poitevin is one of the most diverse natural habitats in France, attracting hundreds of species of birds, and is a favourite spot of many migratory species, making the marshes a favourite spot with many birdwatchers and naturalists! People travel from all over the world to enjoy the rich tapestry of fauna and flora native to the area. Exploring by boat offers the best chance of spotting the local wildlife There are more than 250 species of birds, over half of which actually nest in the marshes. As well as this, 44 species of mammals, 23 species of amphibians and reptiles, 322 species of fish and over 700 species of wild flora have been recorded. One of the best ways to see the local wildlife is by a very local mode of transport. You can hire one of the traditional ‘barques’ or flat-bottom boats, along with a skilled boatman, to punt or row you around the canals. Because the boats are quiet and slow, given that they’re man-powered rather than motorised, you’ll have a much better chance of spotting one of the five species of heron in the area, or perhaps one of the pretty grey and black-spotted insects, Rosalia longicorn. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot one of the notoriously shy European otters! Find out more Depending on which part of the Marais Poitevin you’re visiting, you’ll find various different local tourist offices where you can find information on boat hire, bike hire, the local flora and fauna, and upcoming local events. You’ll never want to leave once you’ve experienced the idyllic lifestyle of the Marais Poitevin For more information on the Abbaye de Maillezais and the surrounding area of the Vendée, head to the Office de Tourisme Sud-Vendée Marais Poitevin. And for more general information on the area as a whole, you can’t go wrong with the tourist office of The Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park. If you’re feeling inspired to set the sat-nav for Green Venice, and we can hardly blame you, remember to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares.

5 Places to explore in the Côte d’Opale

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Long stunning beaches, gastronomic delights and fascinating history - you’d be forgiven for mistaking this as the south of France. Instead it’s the Côte d’Opale region in the north! We’ve teamed up with Office de Tourisme du Touquet-Paris-Plage en Côte d'Opale to uncover 5 places that are not to be missed. Named after the iridescent grey light from the sea and sky, tourists have been travelling to La Côte d’Opale (the Opal Coast) since the Victorian era. Its seaside towns have kept much of their vintage charm and they still attract plenty of beach-goers today. However, despite how well you may know the area, a few places might have missed your radar and are definitely worth making a return trip for. (Or an ideal short break away, for your first introduction!) 1. Le Phare de la Canche Where in Côte d’Opale: Le Touquet Drive from Calais: 70.3km / 1h 1m See the best views of Le Touquet and the surrounding region at Le Phare de la Canche! Credit: letouquet.com If you’re up to the test of climbing 274 steps then you’ll be rewarded with one of the best sights of Le Touquet. La Phare de la Canche (lighthouse) gives you an unmissable view of Le Touquet and on a clear day, you’ll be able to see the three regions of Normandy, Picardy and Nord-Pas de Calais from the 360 degree viewing platform. In excellent weather conditions, your view might even stretch as far to see the familiar sight of the English Cliffs! At the very least you’re guaranteed a stunning panoramic of where the land meets the sea and its surrounding countryside. Like many of the unique villas in Le Touquet, the lighthouse building is also registered as National Heritage in France. 2. Nature watching Where in Côte d’Opale: Baie de Canche & Baie d’Authie Drive from Calais: 92.2km / 1h 13m The Côte d’Opale is blessed with not one but two beautiful nature parks. Baie de Canche is situated east from Étaples-sur-mer and is a protected area of 45 hectares that’s teeming with wildlife. You can explore this area alone, or for a more unique experience we’d recommend a guided tour that will take you to observe migratory birds and even allows you to taste edible plants from the river’s mouth! Further south, near to Berck-sur-mer, is Baie d’Authie, where you can bask in the sun with the company of seals. Two species of seals can be seen from here and in certain months as many as forty have been spotted on the sandbanks! A colony is believed to have settled here as far back as 1890, as shown in a dated Francis Tattegrain sketch. 3. La Charteuse de Neuville Where in Côte d’Opale: Montreuil-sur-mer Drive from Calais: 71.1km / 58m All along the coast you can enjoy endless landscapes. Credit: La Chartreuse de Neuville Steeped in history, La Charteuse de Neuville’s story began 700 years ago when the Count of Boulonge decided to build a monastery at the foot of the ramparts of Montreuil-sur-mer. After some failed attempts, it was finally completed after 3 years of building and is now the biggest Carthusian monastery in France. Thankfully when the Carthusian Order came to an end the building wasn’t left to disrepair. It served as a printing office from 1905, then transformed into the largest Belgian civil hospital during the First World War in 1914. Today its history continues, as it’s currently the largest construction site "Monument Historique" in France, with works beginning in 2016 with a competition date in 2020. This might not sound too appealing, but the site and its gardens are still otherwise open to the public, including the interior of the old monastery. Do check dates and times on the website for access. 4. Étaples Military Cemetery Where in Côte d’Opale: Étaples Drive from Calais: 60.7km / 47m You’ll find the largest military cemetery in France at Étaples. Credit: letouquet.com The site where the Étaples Military Cemetery stands today, which is the largest CWGC cemetery in France, was unforgettably placed in the First World War. Once a complex of reinforcement camps and hospitals, it was the largest British military base in the world (at its peak 100,000 troops were housed here). With a total of 11,500 graves, you can walk through the past of the First World War and discover its history, architecture and construction. (An English brochure is available from the Étaples Tourist Office). 5. Vallée de la course Where in Côte d’Opale: Montcavrel Drive from Calais: 67.3km / 58m The Vallée de la course will take you through picturesque villages and scandalous history. Credit: letouquet.com Following the route of the Vallée de la course will take you through some of the most picturesque French villages in the region. The river runs through watermills, mansions, churches and old farms, but has also seen some rich history. Among one of the more remarkable buildings it runs past is the 18th century Louis XV castle Château de Recq! Further north you’ll find more royal history at Auberge d’Inxent; an inn where the Duke of Windsor used to visit his infamous mistress, Wallis Simpson, to be far from curious onlookers. Whether it’s your first, second or third visit - the Côte d'Opale region has many hidden gems for you to uncover. If you’re feeling inspired discover these and more book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares. Top image credit: letouquet.com

Walk in the footsteps of legends

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Throughout history, Europe has led the way in both the arts and sciences, making ground-breaking discoveries, and composing timeless symphonies. So why not spend your next trip across the Channel visiting the places that inspired some of these important works – you may even find a little inspiration of your own! Claude Debussy Where in France: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Île-de-France Drive from Calais: 284km / 2h 50m Achille-Claude Debussy was born on 22 August 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a pretty little suburb just outside of Paris. He first began learning the piano at the age of seven, and quickly showed exceptional talent, entering the Conservatoire de Paris at just 10 years old. He went on to become one of the most prominent and influential pianists and composers of his time, and is still regarded as one of the most important figures in Impressionist music. Debussy spent a great deal of his life in Paris, but if you really want to get to the root of his genius, a visit to his hometown is a must. Sitting on the left bank of the River Seine, next to the Forest of Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-en-Laye is just how you might imagine a chic French town to be. With its residential streets of houses painted in an array of shades of creams and whites, and laidback café culture and boutique shops, you can easily while away the hours strolling about. Admire the stunning views of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. If you only have time to do one thing during your visit, though, you simply must see the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and its beautiful grounds. It was once a royal palace and is now home to the Musée d'Archéologie Nationale, or the National Archaeological Museum. After you’ve delved into the fascinating history of the exhibits, why not spend the rest of the day exploring the gardens and enjoying the views of Paris in the distance. Marie Curie Where in France: Passy, Haute-Savoie Drive from Calais: 874km / 7h 30m Born Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Warsaw, Poland, it wasn’t until she married her husband Pierre Curie, a fellow scientist and instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry, that she became known as Marie Curie. One of the most notable scientists in history, Marie Curie conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, discovered radium and polonium, the latter of which she named after her homeland. Marie Curie was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win a second time and is still the only woman to have ever won two Nobel Prizes, and in two different sciences – Physics and Chemistry. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. Quite the résumé, don’t you think! Lac Vert, Passy, with its scenic mountainous backdrop. To follow in her footsteps you could, of course, head to Paris, but for something a little more off the beaten track, set your sat-nav for Passy up in the Alps near the Swiss and Italian borders. This peaceful, picturesque town is where Marie Curie spent her final days. Stroll the little cobbled streets of the town, marvel at the breath-taking views of Mont Blanc, and take a trip down to the stunning Lac Vert, or Green Lake, for an invigorating walk. Henri Becquerel Where in France: Le Croisic, Loire-Atlantique Drive from Calais: 678km / 6h 20m Marie Curie didn’t achieve her greatness alone. Not only did she work alongside her husband, Pierre Curie, but also the brilliant mind of Henri Becquerel. Born in Paris into a family with a long line of physicists, he was actually the first person to discover evidence of radioactivity. A fellow Nobel Prize winner, the work that Henri Becquerel and the Curies pioneered the treatments that we use to cure cancer today. Becquerel discovered that radioactivity could be used in medicine in 1901, when a piece of radium that he had left in his pocket burned his skin. This then led to the development of radiotherapy, which has since saved countless lives. So influential was he as a scientist that he’s even had a crater on both the Moon and Mars named after him! The seaside town of Le Croisic is postcard perfection. If you’d like to walk in his footsteps somewhere a little closer to home, however, head to Le Croisic, a little seaside town on the Atlantic coast of the Pays de la Loire region. Becquerel spent his final days here in 1908, and it’s just as beautiful today as it was then. Le Croisic is a busy fishing town, with some of the finest seafood in all of France available. In fact, Le Croisic is France’s main centre for cockle farming, so you’re definitely in for a culinary treat! And if you’re here with the kids, take them to Océarium, an incredible aquarium where they can learn all about the sea life of the Atlantic. Has all this talk of genius captured your imagination? If you’re feeling inspired to discover more of France, don’t forget to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares.

The stunning shades of pink in France

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After a long cold winter, the days are finally getting longer and warmer. And as spring approaches, we’re in the mood to celebrate not only the arrival of blossom in the trees, but all things pink. Join us to explore France’s prettiest pink destinations. The Camargue salt flats Where in France: Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Drive from Calais: 1051km / 9h 30m The South of France is a fair drive from Calais, but the Camargue salt flats are well worth the trip. You’ll find them just south of the city of Arles, between the two arms of the Rhône delta and the Mediterranean Sea. The area is rich in natural beauties, with both flora and fauna adapting to the high saline conditions. One particular draw for nature lovers is the diversity of birds that flock to the area, particularly in the spring. And in keeping with our pink theme, the Camargue salt flats are actually home to hundreds of pastel hued flamingos! Admire the many natural shades of pink found in the Camargue salt flats. It’s not just our feathered friends showing off their best pink colours, but the salt flats themselves too. The reason behind their pretty colour is down to a type of bacteria found in the brine water. The Halobacteria microbes thrive in these intensely salty conditions, which would ordinarily kill off all life forms, and when they bloom they colour the water around them. Depending on conditions, this can vary from a soft baby pink, right through the spectrum to a deep crimson. As well as marvelling at this natural wonder, you’ll find plenty to keep yourselves occupied on a visit to the Camargue region, which is particularly good for horse riding. The area is known for its indigenous white horses, and there are plenty of treks you can go on. Alternatively, you can hit the trails on foot or two wheels, if that’s more your thing. Côte de Granit Rose Where in France: Côtes-d'Armor, Brittany Drive from Calais: 650km / 6h 30m This beautiful, 30km stretch of coastline runs from Plestin-les-Greves to Louannec, and as the name suggests, is famous for its pink-hued rock formations. To really appreciate the splendour of the Côte de Granit Rose, try to time your visit for a sunny day when the sparkling turquoise waters contrast best with the pink granite. Take a walk along the beautiful pink coast of the Côte de Granit Rose. As you’d expect, there are plenty of coastal activities to enjoy for the whole family. Relive your childhood and explore the rockpools, looking out for little fish darting between the shadows. Or you could bring your bikes with you, or hire some locally, and take to the cycle paths to explore the Côte de Granit Rose at a leisurely pace. There are also a number of charming little towns to discover, offering the best of rural life with local markets and pretty churches to visit. Parc de Sceaux Where in France: Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France Drive from Calais: 307km / 3h When you think of springtime, one of the first things that springs to mind, if you’ll excuse the pun, is all the new growth on the trees, and the flowers that come with it. In particular, the perfumed pink clouds of blossom bursting from the cherry trees. Now, you might associate cherry blossom with Japan, but you don’t have to travel that far to enjoy the beautiful ‘Hanami’ cherry blossom festival. Visit the cherry blossom at Parc de Sceaux just outside of Paris. A short drive outside of Paris will take you to the beautiful Château de Sceaux, set in the middle of some truly stunning parkland. This historic house and its grounds are wonderful to visit any time of year, but in the spring, their orchards of Japanese cherry trees are breath-taking. It’s advisable to arrive early, as it’s a very popular celebration. Come prepared with a picnic blanket, plenty of snacks, and of course, your camera! During the Hanami festivities, generally around late March and into April, but this varies with the weather, there will be plenty of activities to keep you entertained. You can try a kimono on for size, or perhaps master the delicate art of origami. Feeling inspired to plan a pretty pink-themed getaway to France? Make sure you book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best prices.

See Belgium from high to low

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Join us for a journey through Belgium like no other. Starting at the highest point, Signal de Botrange, and heading down to Belgium’s only national park, before diving underground to The Remouchamps Caves. Signal de Botrange Drive from Calais: 350.1km / 3h 32m While not known as a mountainous country like neighbouring France, that doesn’t mean that Belgium doesn’t hold some allure for climbers. Belgium’s highest point is located in Waimes, just over three and a half hours from Calais. At 694 metres, Signal de Botrange may seem like a warm up for more experienced hikers, but if you are a beginner or are a very reluctant climber, then it’s ideal. Disappointed that their highest point didn’t reach the more impressive 700 metres, the Belgians built the six metre Baltia Tower for visitors to climb to reach the coveted height. The highest point in Belgium comes complete with a tower and restaurant. It’s a gentle hike to the top, in fact from a distance it looks almost flat, so there is no need to worry about a strenuous climb. If you do need refreshment when you reach the top, there is a restaurant there, serving all sorts of well-deserved comforting treats. You can also pay a visit to the nearby tourist office too, and pick up some information on what else you can get up to on your holiday. Hoge Kempen National Park Drive from Calais: 298.2km / 3h Under the green canopy of Hoge Kempen, you are surrounded by peace and beauty. At Hoge Kempen National Park, you have the chance to explore the vast natural wonderland of Belgium’s only national park. At 5,000 hectares, and with five different gateways, (each with great transport access and parking) there is something for every type of adventure-seeker. Kattervennen is ideal for those who love to horse ride, as the area is perfect for trekking through. For those who aren’t confident horse riders there are riding lessons, so you can soon be trotting happily through the park. This area of the park is also home to a botanical garden, a draw for all budding horticulturists. If that’s not enough, you can also spend the afternoon getting to know the animals at the petting zoo. Lietberg is the quirkier gateway, and its visitors are encouraged to walk barefoot on the grass, woodchips, stone and even through water. This is probably an activity suited to those travelling in summer, as the Belgian winter can be very chilly. After taking your barefoot walk, pop into the insect museum, and learn more about the smallest creatures in the park. Children and those young at heart will love Pietersheim, where you can go on a magical journey along the gnome trail. There is also a small animal zoo, filled with the cuddliest farm animals. The park isn’t just for nature lovers, those who are interested in old trains will love Station As. Travel through the park on small train, so even if you are short on time you can still see the wonderous natural landscape. There is even the opportunity to stay the night on an overnight train. It wouldn’t be a nature park without a large space to hike, which is why Meehelse is one of the most popular areas of the park. It’s designed for long walks, and is overflowing with fauna and woodland creatures, so be sure to keep your eye out. The Remouchamps Caves Drive from Calais: 320.3km / 3h 12m Not only can you explore the caves, but also sail through an underground river. Credit: zoetnet Finally, it’s time to burrow deep underneath Belgium, to the mysterious Remouchamps Caves. Cavernous is ironically too small a word to describe the caves, one part is even known as The Cathedral as it’s so large. The Cathedral is the first part of the caves you will explore, after a walk underground. After exploring The Cathedral, you then go on a voyage through the rest of the caves on an hour and a half boat ride through the underground river, the Rubicon. As if sailing though a mysterious river isn’t magical enough, if you look closely you can spot the translucent niphargus shrimp glowing in the darkness. With a history dating back 8000 years, the caves have had a diverse past. They provided shelter and protection during WWII and in true European style, they were also used as a wine cellar. Are you feeling excited at the prospect of a Belgian adventure? Remember to book your tickets in advance to get the best prices.

Spectacular museums of Belgium

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For centuries, Europe has been at the forefront of great historic discoveries and therefore has some of the world’s best museums. And Belgium in particular is no exception. Young or old, you’re sure to discover something new that will surprise and delight, helping to create holiday memories that will last a lifetime. Atomium Where in Belgium: Brussels Drive from Calais: 195km / 2h 5m The Atomium was originally built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, and has since become a landmark building in the city and is now also a museum. The structure itself is actually quite a marvel, designed to represent the shape of an elementary iron crystal, only magnified to 165 billion times its actual size. Explore the tunnels of the amazing Atomium in Brussels. Credit: © 2018 – www.atomium.be – SOFAM Belgium It’s made up of nine spheres, five of which are open to the public, all of which are linked with 20 interconnecting tubes containing either lifts, escalators or stairs to explore the interior. Inside the Atomium, you’ll find a permanent exhibition taking a look back at the history of the structure and what it represented in post-war Belgium at the time. There are also a number of temporary exhibitions to discover, and as these often change, it’s best to check their website before you visit to see what’s on. The main draw for most visitors are the beautiful panoramas from the top sphere, and you can even book a table for dinner and enjoy the view with your meal. It’s a good idea to book in advance, though, as the Atomium remains Brussels’ most popular tourist attraction. Historium Brugge Where in Belgium: Bruges Drive from Calais: 117km / 1h 30m Housed in a beautiful neo-Gothic building on the Markt (market square) in the centre of Bruges, the Historium Brugge takes its visitors on an immersive trip back in time. The audio and visual tour is about an hour long, taking you back to medieval Bruges in 1435. There’s a bit of a love story to set the narrative scene, which is great for visiting couples and families alike. Step through the doors of the neo-Gothic Historium Brugge, and step back in time to 1435 There’s also a VR experience to really make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, as well as a special Family Trail full of interactive experiences to keep kids entertained. Round your visit off with stunning panoramic views of Bruges and the Markt with a locally brewed beer in hand at the terrace at the Duvelorium Grand Beer Café. Generally speaking, Historium Brugge is open from 10am until 6pm every day, but do check ahead of visiting in case it’s closed for a public holiday. Euro Space Center Where in Belgium: Transinne Drive from Calais: 320km / 3h 15m Out in the picturesque Belgian countryside, you’ll find the fascinating Euro Space Center, a museum dedicated to all things space-related. It’s the perfect day out for the whole family, particularly if you’ve got any budding astronauts in your midst. And if you’ve got time to spare, you can even extend your visit to two days, and take part in a special mission! Head to the Euro Space Center for an out-of-this-world experience! credit: Euro Space Center If you fancy going all out, and making someone’s space-travel dreams come true, why not take a look at some of the longer planned out mission activities. You can choose from one or two day experiences, learning everything about becoming an astronaut, and even training on Moonwalk simulators. You’ll also get the chance to learn a little rocket science and build your own miniature rocket! If you’re a bit pushed for time, though, don’t worry – there are plenty of activities to get involved with independently. As well as the fascinating planetarium and the incredible 5D space show, you can still experience what it feels like to walk on the Moon or Mars in a reduced gravity environment. Opening times vary depending on the season, so it’s best to check these out before you go, particularly in the winter months, when the Euro Space Center is often only open on weekends. If your interest has been piqued and you feel inspired to set off on your own adventure of discovery, make sure you book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares available. Top image Credit: © 2018 – www.atomium.be – SOFAM Belgium

Hidden gems of the Netherlands: Delft

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Just a short three-and-a-half-hour drive from Calais, with its peaceful canals lined with medieval buildings, you’ll find the beautiful city of Delft. This charming little city is perfect for a short trip or weekend break, and packs just as much of a cultural punch as Amsterdam, just on a smaller, more intimate scale. Vermeer Centrum Delft High on your list of must-see attractions is the fascinating museum dedicated to the life and work of Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer. He may not be as well-known and instantly recognisable as say, Monet or Picasso, but you’ll no doubt be familiar with his most famous piece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired the book and film of the same name. Inspiration isn’t hard to find in beautiful Delft During his lifetime, he was relatively unknown, and faded into obscurity after his death in 1675. It wasn’t until the 19th century that his work and mastery of light was recognised, and he has since come to be recognised as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. The Vermeer Centrum Delft is open seven days a week, except for Christmas Day, and there is an admission fee for adults, students and children aged 12 and older. There are free guided tours in English on Sunday mornings, and there’s also a café and a shop for all the refreshments and souvenirs you need. Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles Another of Delft’s most famous exports is their blue and white pottery, or Delftware, which has been in production since the 16th century. The most famous and highly sought after period is from circa 1640-1740, when a shortage in Chinese porcelain boosted the popularity and creativity of Delftware. Pick up a charming souvenir from the Royal Delft shop The Royal Delft Experience is housed in the last remaining earthenware factory from the 17th century, and offers a look at the history of the Dutch pottery trade, and a glimpse at the skill that still goes into crafting these beautiful ceramic wares. Royal Delft is open daily, with reduced hours on Sunday, and it’s closed on 25th and 26th December, and 1st January. Children aged 12 and under go free, and there is a reduced ticket price for 13-18 year olds and students. Oude en Nieuwe Kerk There are many lovely churches that you could pop into in Delft, but there are two in particular that stand out. The Oude Kerk, or Old Church, and the Nieuew Kerk, or New Church. The crooked tower of the Old Church is best seen from the canal As you may have guessed from the name, the Old Church is the oldest of the two, built in 1246. Back in those days, the church was known as St Bartholomew’s, named after the patron saint of its founding father Bartholomeus van der Made. During the centuries that followed, the church underwent some major expansions and developments to become the magnificent gothic basilica that we see today, but there is still a distinctly medieval feel about it. The other main church in Delft, the New Church, is only new in relative terms. Construction actually began in 1381, but it wasn’t completed until 1655, almost 300 years later. Both churches are famous for their respective towers, and they also each have important tombs housed within them. The Old Church’s tower stands at 75m in height, and has come to be known as ‘Scheve Jan’, or ‘Crooked John’ in English, as subsidence from the surrounding canals has caused it to lean roughly 2m from the vertical line. You’re not allowed to climb the tower, but inside the church you’ll find the tomb of Delft’s artist in residence, Johannes Vermeer. The New Church offers stunning views from the top of its tower The tower of the New Church is taller at 108.75m, to be precise, which makes it the second tallest tower in the Netherlands. Fortunately, as this tower isn’t wonky, you can climb the 376 steps to the top, if you’re feeling energetic. It’s well worth the hike, as on a clear day, you can see all the way to Rotterdam and The Hague! If stairs aren’t your thing, spend some time admiring the stunning interiors, and don’t miss the tomb of William of Orange whose effigy has been carved out of white marble, along with his faithful spaniel who lies at his feet. You can buy one ticket to visit both churches, and children 5 and under go free, although they are not allowed to climb the tower and older children must be accompanied by an adult. The churches are both open daily, Monday to Saturday, but are closed on Sundays for religious services. Check the opening hours before you visit, as they change seasonally. If you’re feeling inspired to plan a little getaway or short break to explore Delft and beyond, remember to book your tickets with us in advance to get the best prices.

Kobee the Dog’s Guide to Germany & Austria

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Looking for a new destination to holiday with your dog?  If you haven’t thought about taking your dog to Germany let Kobee the Shih Tzu inspire you with his favourite destinations in Germany and Austria. Although Kobee the Shih Tzu may be small, he loves going on big road trip adventures with his family to Europe. Having travelled with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle a total of seven times, he’s explored countries like Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. However, it was the latter 2 countries that particularly caught his eye.  If you’re looking to take your pet’s paws further this year, find out more about Kobee’s adventures in Germany and Austria. Nuremberg, Germany Drive from Calais: 814.3 km / 8h 25m Explore the medieval streets of Nuremberg with your pet. One of Kobee’s favourite places to visit is Nuremberg, which usually consists of a stop-off in Luxembourg for one night.  The long journey is worth it though when reaching Nuremberg, being Bavaria’s second largest city it’s both beautiful and dog-friendly.  There are a number of very dog-friendly hotels (Kobee recommends Mövenpick Hotel Nürnberg) and plenty of outdoor seating areas. Thankfully, dogs are allowed inside some of the city’s cafes, restaurants and department stores (supermarkets are an exception), so you don’t have to leave them alone in your accommodation.  Getting around the city is easy too as dogs are also allowed to travel for free on the trams, railways and the city’s U-Bahn (underground rail system). If you’re staying in Nuremberg for a long break, Kobee recommends a day trip from here to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  A well-preserved walled medieval town – taking your furry friend for a walk along the ramparts is not to be missed!

Discover Normandy in Spring

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Spring is a beautiful time of year in France, no matter where you are.  The sun has risen from its wintertime hibernation, the flowers are beginning to bloom and the scent of summer is in the air. If you’re looking for some springtime holiday inspiration, Normandy, on France’s northern coast, has lovely beaches, diverse towns and famous attractions – including Mont-Saint-Michel and the Bayeux Tapestry – Normandy is top of our list this spring. Here are a few reasons why. Festival of New Circus Forms: SPRING When: from mid-March to early April Drive from Calais: various locations in Normandy / appro. 3hrs If you like your entertainment to be a little left field, make sure you book tickets to at least one performance from the Festival of New Circus Forms. Taking place at locations throughout Normandy, the festival showcases all kinds of unique acts, and is mixture of circus acrobatics, art, music, dance and theatre. Come prepared to be blown away. Black Pudding Festival When: every third weekend of March Drive from Calais: 366.5km / under 4hrs Sample Mortagne-au-Perche culinary speciality; le Boudin noir. Every year, Mortagne-au-Perche – a small town in the Orne Department of Normandy – hosts a celebration of Boudin (that’s black pudding to you and me). Often regarded as the black pudding capital, Mortagne-au-Perche’s festival includes cooking demonstrations and eating contests, while the main event is a competition to find the best black pudding in the world. Delicious! Tulip Festival When: every April Drive from Calais: 343.4km / under 3hrs 45mins Admire the colours of more than 30,000 bulbs, narcissuses and grape hyacinths at Château de Vendeuvre. Set in the gardens of one of Normandy’s most beautiful castles, Château de Vendeuvre, the annual tulip festival showcases over 100 varieties of tulips, alongside narcissuses and grape hyacinths, amassing to around 30,000 individual flowers. Stroll through the spectacular gardens, amongst the colourful flowers, soaking up the springtime sunshine. Once you’re finished in the gardens, explore the château and its museum. Easter Festival/Deauville Music Festival When: mid to late April Drive from Calais: 292.5km / under 3hrs 15mins The Easter Festival takes place in the seaside town, Deauville. Running for over 20 years, the Deauville Music Festival (or Easter Festival, as it is also known) offers a jam-packed programme of spectacular classical music that’s guaranteed to impress. From Mozart violin concertos to Schumann quartets, the festival is a delight for the ears, and a must for the musically inclined. Don’t miss out, book your tickets today. Whelk Festival When: late April Drive from Calais: 460.3km / under 4hrs 45mins Enjoy delicious seafood at Pirou. Situated as it is – on France’s north coast – Normandy is abundant with fresh seafood and shellfish all year round. If you’re after a springtime seafood fix, make your way to Pirou for its annual Whelk Festival. Browse the many stalls, where you can sample all kinds of locally-caught seafood, and grab a seat at the open-air concert on Sunday. It’s a great day out for the family. Plan your spring getaway with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes and you’ll be Normandy within a few short hours. Book your tickets with us in advance to get the best price.

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